Life sentences upheld in 2012 murder of Kennesaw man

·4 min read

Oct. 10—The night of April 21, 2012, two housemates and a friend went to the Kennesaw home of a 53-year-old mechanic, who also happened to be their pot dealer.

They went to rob him, but things did not go as planned. By the end of their encounter, the dealer lay dead in his garage as the men who had meant only to rob him burned their clothes to cover their tracks.

Percy "P" Burdine, Jalin "Snoop" Collins and Brandon "Gutter" Love were eventually arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of the mechanic, Milton Carl Kelley.

The trio appealed, arguing the trial court and their attorneys had erred. They were unsuccessful. Among a series of opinions released last week by the Georgia Supreme Court was one that upheld the men's sentences.

'Our Superman'

The family Kelley left behind included six children, ages 14 to 32 at the time of the trial.

His oldest child, Shawna Kelley Welch, said at the time her father had a "slick mouth" telling people how things needed to be done. But she said he was usually right.

"There was never a time that I needed something and he wasn't there," she told the MDJ after the killing in April 2012. "His way was the best way. He was our Superman."

Mikel Kelley, then 17, had said his father was teaching him how to work on cars.

The robbery

According to the state, on April 21, 2012, Collins and Love asked two women they knew for a ride to Kelley's house on Leicester Drive, in the Canterbury West subdivision off Bells Ferry Road. The women agreed, unaware of the planned robbery, Love later said. Burdine followed them in his truck.

Collins and Love had the women drive to a house-less cul-de-sac before exiting. The women waited — Kelley's house was one street over. About 20 minutes later, the two women saw the men running back to the car telling them "go, go, go."

Love would eventually admit to investigators he, Collins and Burdine had gone there to rob Kelley. When Love was speaking with Kelley outside his house, however, Kelley pulled out a 9-millimeter handgun, and Love grabbed the gun and shot Kelley in self-defense, Love told police.

At around 10:30 p.m., Kelley's girlfriend heard a loud noise and went outside to find him unresponsive on the garage floor with a gunshot wound to his face, according to the state.

After the shooting, Love, Burdine and the women returned to their apartment complex. One of the women saw Collins and Love burning their clothes in the backyard. Later that night, the four of them smoked marijuana together, and Love told the women he'd shot a man and that "they would kill them if they told anyone," according to the state.

Appeals and opinion

All three were sentenced in 2013 to life in prison for murder, aggravated assault and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Several years later, they appealed.

All three argued the trial court erred on technicalities.

"Collins contends that the trial court committed plain error by giving the jury an inapplicable instruction on the definition of 'accomplice' and that his trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance," the Supreme Court wrote in its decision. And Love asked for "a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter as a lesser offense of murder," saying he'd acted in self-defense.

Burdine also argued the evidence presented wasn't enough to merit the sentence he ultimately received.

Burdine argued that there was no evidence he knew Love or Collins had any plan to "commit an assault on Kelley with a firearm, or that such an assault was a foreseeable possibility," the court wrote.

"Even assuming that Burdine did not know that Love or Collins had a gun or planned to use a gun to rob or assault Kelley," the court concluded, "the jury was authorized to hold Burdine criminally responsible for Kelley's death because there was a foreseeable risk that Love or Collins would bring a firearm to the planned robbery of Kelley, and that Kelley — the intended victim of a robbery — could be killed."

Love, meanwhile, said Kelley swore at him, "threatened to kill him, and pulled a handgun on him," the court wrote. "But Love never testified that he was angry or mad or that he had any other response showing he might have reacted passionately — only that he was scared and was defending himself."

As such, there was no evidence "required to support a jury charge on voluntary manslaughter."

The Supreme Court likewise rejected Collins' appeal regarding the trial court, as well as his and Burdine's appeals arguing their lawyers had not provided adequate representation.

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